Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Interesting Visitor

The Interesting Visitor

     We were having work done on our house, and the maintenance truck was in our driveway when I pulled up after work. So I parked in the street. I saw a vehicle on the side street  - just stopped and pointing at our house. At first I thought it was someone talking to our crazy beagles in our screened in porch. But the man yelled over, "I grew up in this house."  I said, "Cmon in." He said he was on oxygen and didn't want to drag the tank in. He was just showing his friend where he had grown up. I told him he may want to see the house because we remodeled the kitchen, blowing out the wall. He said he always thought that wall should have been blown out, but no one would believe him.
     He first thought he'd just peer in the front window but then decided to come in.  We were so glad he did. What an extraordinary visit.
     He told us stories of growing up in the house. We asked him questions about the house. He was thrilled to talk about it - how he had to mow with a hand-push mower up the hill where we now have mulch and flowers; talks of snakes and spiders, and the old fireplace (now propane).  He used to enjoy sleeping in the screened in porch when he came home for visits. He told us that one night while sleeping out there, he heard tires screech and a crashing sound.  But he didn't hear police or ambulance sirens. So he and his wife drove out to investigate. They found
skid marks and part of the guard rail down, and then found a truck barely visible from the road. His wife drove back to the house to call for help (no cell phones in those days), and he tended to the driver.  The man was trapped under the truck with the exhaust pipe on his chest, burning him. Our friend used a tree branch to prop the pipe up while they waited for help.
     He told us stories of
Vietnam. Once while on guard duty, in the pitch darkness, as he held his gun, finger on the trigger, he felt a weight slowly crawling across his arm. He held perfectly still as a 7-foot snake slowly made its way over both of his arms. He told us about being sprayed with Agent Orange - twice, being told they were spraying for mosquitoes. And that's what led to his oxygen tank.
     I was tending to the dogs when my husband found out that the visitor's friend was actually his Hospice caretaker. But I'm glad I didn't know at the time.  I might have treated him differently, little pity. Instead I fully enjoyed his company. His friend/caretaker thanked us for making his day. He said he could see how much he enjoyed seeing his old homestead, how much it meant to him that we were taking such good care of it.
A very interesting visitor - a very enjoyable visit.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Motel

We pulled into the parking lot and were greeted by a man with some teeth missing and a girl with an iguana on her arm. Not a tattoo, the real thing. When they processed our check-in, he said he had to run our credit card through for one penny, even though our card was already billed, just to show his boss that he checked us in. 

As my husband was getting directions to the wedding we were attending, the reason we were staying in this lovely motel, I took a look around. There were tables and chairs with vinyl table cloths on them scattered in three little sections. One section had a microwave on a small counter; another had an exercise bike right in with the dining tables; and one had an oil painting sitting on top of a table, propped against the wall.

He told us our room number. There were three buildings with no cars in their parking lots. Our room was in the very last building, third from the end, by a dark wooded area. Thoughts of “Psycho” came to mind. As I put the key in the door, I noticed that the door was scratched or carved around the door knob area as if it were once broken into and never repaired. Oh this is getting better and better, isn’t it? 

The room didn’t look too bad at first glance. Then we noticed that there was no microwave or fridge as mentioned on line. I guess that one in the lovely dining/exercise area was the aforementioned microwave.

 And oh, what a bathroom… It had paper bath mats, no hand towels, and the toilet had one of those soft squishy toilet seats. It wasn’t much of a flusher either.  It was a dark green, very old, and the single light over the sink must have had a 40 watt bulb in it. 

Back to the room itself, my husband killed three spiders. He could not figure out how to get the 12-channel TV to turn on. One of the bed lamps had a hole where the push button switch should have been. We couldn’t even fill the cooler with ice and beer to get through the night – no ice machine!

So… we changed for the wedding and made our decision that after the wedding, we would go back to the room, pack up our stuff, and leave. We checked out at 10:25pm. We didn't even try for a refund. We just had to get out of there.

Saturday, May 4, 2013



My sister and I recently had to drive to Philadelphia on family business.  Eileen is – how should I put this – directionally challenged. She also has a little trouble distinguishing between left and right. Not a good thing when a road sign says, “Merge Right.” A few times along the way, she panicked, saying, “Oh my God, I have to merge right,” when we were already in the right lane.

It rained through the whole trip down.  But I must say, she did a great job.  We got a little off track as we pulled into Phillie. So Eileen, being the excellent driver that she is, pulled a U-turn – in the middle of Philadelphia! 

We found the hotel, which turned out to be an incredibly upscale place.  (We later heard that the Dodgers stayed there while playing the Phillies).  Our bags and car were whisked away by a swift and efficient crew of attendants. They were so swift and efficient, that it took a few minutes for me to realize that all of our information was in those bags – addresses, phone numbers, GPS – all in some holding area because our room wasn’t ready. 

I tried to remember the address of the attorney we were to meet.  “It’s 99 something,” I kept saying.  It started to rain. We had one tiny travel umbrella between us. I don’t know why, but we kept walking – as if by some miracle, the building would appear in front of us. Since it didn’t, I called my husband and screamed into the phone, “What’s the address of the lawyer’s office.” Naturally, he didn’t have that information on him.  But a few minutes later, he called back with the address – 1608 Walnut Street. 99 something?

The meeting went well, and we finally were able to check into our room. What an incredible place. The lobby, which had their trademark scent pumped in through the vents, was on the second floor. We needed our room key to activate the elevator that lead to the hotel rooms. And the beds!  The most comfortable beds we had ever slept on. We found out later that they actually have a name.  They’re called Heavenly Beds.  Appropriately named, I must say.

We had dinner in the main dining room. We thought it was odd that we were the only people in there.  The food was wonderful. But then the bill and then came. We later learned that the hotel bar had a much less expensive food menu. Good to know.
With more meetings came another trip. This time, the hotel was much older and not quite as posh.  It did, however, have interesting plumbing.  On our first night there, as I was about to flush the toilet, I heard a strange sound. A gurgling, rumbling sound. All of a sudden, the toilet began to erupt – a geyser shooting over a foot above the toilet seat. I screamed and ran out of the bathroom.  We both screamed.  Within a few minutes, Maintenance and Housekeeping took care of it, explaining that another floor must have had a blockage.  We had a good laugh over it all. Who knew this old hotel would have a “bidet.”

While not in meetings, we spent our time finding our way around the city – well, finding our way, losing our way – whatever.  On one adventurous trip, after shopping at Liberty Square, we decided to venture out past the 5 or 6 blocks we had been confining ourselves to. We were totally amazed at how we accidentally made a complete circle and ended up back at Liberty Square. To this day, I don’t know how we did that.

As sisters sometimes do, Eileen and I had drifted apart a little before our trip. But spending that time with each other in the city brought us closer.  And no matter what ever happens in the future, we’ll always have Philadelphia.

Our Beagles

Our First Beagle
We were cat people.  Had our cat for around 15 years before moving to our new home in a country-style setting.  That’s when my husband Wayne decided that we needed a dog.  He always wanted a beagle, so he checked shelters on line and we found Rufus at Hillside SPCA in Pottsville. We were so excited to meet him, but Rufus didn’t feel the same way. All he wanted to do was sniff. Yes, I know beagles sniff, but he wanted nothing to do with us. So we went into the private meeting room as one dog after another came in to check us out. They were either too hyper (for our 15-year-old cat) or hated men, or hated beards, or were too big (for our 15-year-old cat). Wayne was heartbroken, and we were about to give up, when I saw a pretty little beagle in the outside pen. I swear, she looked straight at me and motioned with a nudge of her head to meet me in the meeting room. It turned out she was a he. When Wayne bent down to him, he got up on his hind legs, put his front paws on either side of him and put his head on his shoulder. I had never seen a dog do that. Decision made, buddy, you’re coming home with us. Well, not so fast. He was a runaway a few times over and the owners had 48 hours to reclaim him. So went home dogless.

The following Monday, I woke with a raging migraine. So I didn’t go into work. I did, however, call Hillside. They said our beagle was OK to adopt. So, with no makeup on (and if you knew me, you’d realize that never happens), in a pouring rain, I drove up to Pottsville to adopt our little boy. His name is now Kinder, as in Kindergarten. And he is the most loving and empathic dog I have ever known. 

I had a few rough years after that day. My mother passed away, and three weeks later we found out that my father was dying of cancer. I sat down on the couch after finding out the news and began to cry. Kinder jumped up on my lap, put his front paws on either side of me, and put his head on my shoulder. He stayed like that as I sobbed for about 20 minutes. 
We realized then that he must have sensed Wayne’s sad mood that first day and was trying to comfort him. Kinder has been with us for years now, and if tragedy ever strikes, you can be assured that his head will be on your shoulder.
Our Second Beagle
After my parents passed, we sold their home and split the money within the family.  Wayne and I decided to use our share to remodel our tiny, outdated kitchen.  One beautiful sunny June afternoon as I got ready to head to Lowes with Wayne, I realized he was missing. After quite some time, I heard him yell, “Debra, come here! Come here!” I ran outside and there was Wayne holding a leash attached to a smiling, tail-wagging beagle. A female beagle had wandered into our neighborhood, and the neighbor down the street thought she was ours. Wayne bent down to pet her, and when he stood up to say it wasn’t our dog, the neighbor was gone. 
We brought her in the house while we tried to figure out what to do. When Kinder laid eyes on her, it was love at first sight. They romped and played like they had known each other forever. When Wayne decided to take her out into the neighborhood to try to find the owner, insisting that one beagle was enough, Kinder went into hysterics. Poor Romeo could not bear to see his Juliet leave.  He carried on like we were taking away the love of his life. Although she was adorable, the thought of someone missing her forced us to look for her family. We called the SPCA, the police, and the local vets. We also put an ad in the paper. Wayne tried to staple “Found Dog” signs on trees around town, but the staple gun died. I told him it was a sign that we should just keep her. But we had to do the right thing. 
After a few days, with no calls, we took her to our vet, where they scanned her for an I.D. chip.  I held my breath through the scan, which seemed to last forever. She was clear. The doctor said that we should probably consider her ours if we didn’t get a call from her owner within about two weeks. Uh, three days was enough waiting period in my book.
Did I mention that I named her within the first minute I saw her? I don’t know where the name came from. I just looked at her and said, “You look like a Sheila.” And I swear she smiled.
She’s been ours for quite a few years now. And what a joyful little dog she is. That tail starts wagging every time we walk into the room. Between the comfort Kinder gives and joyful little Sheila, I have Comfort and Joy all year long.